Unperturbed by the objectionable remarks made by political leaders against the judiciary, the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court said the judges were not bothered with the same and the shoulders of the Court are broad enough to take criticism.
The remark came after an advocate sought an urgent hearing of a PIL seeking initiation of contempt of court proceedings against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Sanjay Raut, Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, CM’s wife Rashmi Thackeray in her capacity as the editor of Marathi daily Saamna and publisher of Saamna Vivek Kada for their remarks against the judiciary.
“Let them say anything they want to say about the judiciary. Our shoulders are broad enough for such remarks. As long as our conscience is clean.. let them say whatever,” said CJ Datta.
The HC was to initially list the PIL filed by Indian Bar Association for a hearing in June. However, the association’s counsel pointed out that the remarks by the respondents were made despite the efforts of the court.
The court then asked the advocate to file a precipe (application seeking urgent hearing) and said it will consider the same.
The PIL states that the respondents, who hold ministerial posts, are involved in a campaign to scandalize the entire judicial system only because judgments rendered by courts do not suit them. The plea read: “Their plan to keep their opponents in jail or to cause them harassment by misuse of power and police machinery has failed due to the orders of this Court and the Supreme Court.”
The plea then details various instances of such conduct with the latest being the one between BJP leader Kirit Somaiya and Raut. Somaiya exposed many frauds allegedly committed by Shiv Sena leaders. Incidentally, two ministers of the coalition government – former home minister Anil Deshmukh and cabinet minister Nawab Malik – are in judicial custody in separate alleged money laundering cases.
Raut then alleged that Somaiya and his son Neil, in 2013, allegedly misappropriated funds received from people in their drive to save the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant from decommissioning.
Based on this, an FIR was filed against Kirit Somaiya and his son. The sessions court rejected their pre-arrest bail pleas, however, it was granted by the HC.
“It is evident that the respondents were expecting the arrest of Kirit Somaiya in the said case,” states the PIL, adding that when the HC gave interim protection from arrest to Somaiya, Raut got annoyed and made defamatory statements against the judiciary saying that people have lost faith in courts.
Raut gave interviews on TV channels as well as wrote an editorial on Saamna alleging that the judges of courts particularly the Bombay High Court, are granting relief to BJP members and not granting relief to the accused ministers of their party.
Taking objection to Raut’s remarks, the plea states: “The double standards and hypocrisy of respondents can be seen from the fact that whenever judges of this court are passing orders in favour of State Authority and against people who are connected to BJP like Arnab Goswami and others then they are using said judgments as justice done and whenever the judgment is not as per their wish then they are making baseless, scandalous, unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations against the judges and blaming entire judiciary by terming the corrupt. This proves their dishonesty and such people need to be punished severely.”
The Association’s plea states that the judges are under tremendous pressure since, and every order passed by them is being scrutinized and defamed by the contemnors.
“This is the greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary and if such tendency is not checked in time, then it will lead to very mischievous consequences thereby putting the rule of law in jeopardy which cannot be permitted at any cost,” adds the plea.
The plea prays that the HC take suo moto (on its own) cognizance of the contempt committed by the respondents.